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Dante Fowler Jr.'s injury prompts Jaguars to change up rookie minicamp

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Expect the Jacksonville Jaguars' rookie minicamp to be different in 2016.

Just how much it will change from what the team has done during coach Gus Bradley’s first three seasons is still not determined. The reason for the change, however, is simple: Dante Fowler Jr.'s torn ACL.

Fowler missed the entire 2015 season after suffering the injury on the first day of last year’s rookie minicamp. The No. 3 overall pick was only on the field for little more than an hour before it happened.

"I think it forced us to just say, ‘OK, what do we actually want rookie minicamp to do?’" Bradley said during the NFL’s annual meetings at the Boca Raton Resort. "We want the players out there. Maybe it's a little bit more individual [work]. Maybe it's to give them a chance to get in the weight room. Maybe it's a chance to meet with our coaches one-on-one.

"It may be a different philosophy that we have."

Teams are restricted by what they can do in minicamps. In rookie minicamp, which is held the first or second weekend following the draft, the rules are in place to protect players who have spent the previous four or five months training for the combine and their pro day, as well as traveling across the country to visit teams. They aren’t able to work out at a level that will get them into, and maintain, football shape.

That taxes muscles and joints that haven’t been in use as much as they normally would had the players been working out. That can raise the risk of injuries, and not just for serious injuries. Strains and sprains are common and can keep rookies out of OTAs and rob them of valuable on-field time. Receiver Marqise Lee fits into that category. He missed most of OTAs as a rookie in 2014 because of an ankle injury.

The big risk, though, is the kind of injury that knocked Fowler out for the year. Denver tight end Jeff Heuerman also tore his ACL during rookie minicamp last year and missed the season.

Players can be injured at any point -- during games, normal practices, offseason conditioning, and even on vacation, so the Jaguars modifying their rookie minicamp format is not a guarantee that injuries will not occur. It does lessen the risk somewhat, and after what happened last year you can’t blame the Jaguars for trying to do that.

"You never know," general manager Dave Caldwell said. "Sometimes that’s worse, too. Just trying to minimize risk. Not only the catastrophic injury we had last year, just the strains that a lot of these rookies incur in their first rookie minicamp.

"Try to avoid that so they’re not rehabbing all summer and they’re actually getting better."